Countless artists are eager to get back on the road after the pandemic brought a halt to live music back in 2020. Several of them, legendary acts like Drake and Beyoncé, are kicking off tours for the first time in half a decade or more this year. One act, however, hasn’t seen the road since 2018, and the gap between now and then includes four No. 1 albums, two re-recordings of previous releases, and a history-making ten spots on the Billboard Top Ten. That singer-songwriter is Taylor Swift.
In November 2022, Swift announced the Eras Tour. The show was marketed as “a journey through the musical eras of [Swift’s] career”, and there was intense speculation about what that would mean. Last night (March 17), after over four months of pining and desperately waiting, she showed us.
She divided the evening into different eras but not in chronological order. With a massive 44-song setlist that clocked in at three hours and (yes, seriously) 13 minutes, the night held tons of answers to long-held questions and defied fans’ wildest dreams at every turn. If the ticketing fiasco of the Eras Tour kept you on the other side of the State Farm Stadium door, don’t worry: we’ve highlighted the moments from the night that left us wonderstruck.
While Taylor’s set had enough incredible moments to fill five articles this length, it would be a misstep not to mention opening acts GAYLE and Paramore. The former is best known for her viral single ‘adcdefu’. Taylor Gayle Rutherford was overcome by emotion to be opening for such a monumental tour, and took several opportunities to make her gratitude known.
Paramore’s lead vocalist Hayley Williams echoed similar sentiments. The band took a brief pause from their set as Williams told the story of getting to know Swift when they were both teenage artists in Nashville. She recounted reaching out to Swift after the infamous VMA incident and the friendship that blossomed. When Williams launched into an earnest speech about how special Taylor is as an artist and a musician, she was nearly drowned out by impassioned screams. The crowd knew it all too well.
In comparison to previous Swift tours, the stage took on a dramatically scaled-back design. Instead of giant inflatable snakes or sparking cages that fly over the audience, she opted for sparse, understated props. But don’t be fooled: Swift still managed to prove she’s one of the best in the game at bringing her music to life visually.
Most of the heavy lifting to distinguish each different era aesthetically fell to the rear jumbotron. From a stunning video of melting snow that revealed a dense, earthy forest representing the ‘Evermore’ era, to an ethereal, abstract mosaic of purple lights and flowers that signalled the sole song on the setlist from ‘Speak Now’, ‘Enchanted,’ these brief interludes conjured atmospheres of awe.
Other subtle visual details proved a clever way to convey each track. Dancers dressed in classic Swift outfits during ‘Look What You Made Me Do’. Small flakes of white confetti mimicking snow fell during the outro of ‘All Too Well (Ten Minute Version)’. There were also illusions of Swift diving into the stage or floating off on a cloud — every choice made it clear that the production choices were deliberate and well thought out during her time away.
Each era of the show had its triumphs, but nothing as fantastical as the portion dedicated to her Grammy-winning Album of the Year, ‘Folklore’. Swift introduced the era with a beautifully spoken recitation of the lyrics to the deep-cut ‘Seven’. When she appeared in a flowing lilac gown on the roof of a moss-covered rustic cabin and started singing ‘Invisible String’, fans erupted in surprised glee.
This section featured the era’s biggest hits (like the interconnected love triangle songs, ‘Cardigan’, ‘August’, and ‘Betty’), as well as arresting arrangements of tracks that die-hard Swifties were worried wouldn’t make the cut, like ‘My Tears Ricochet’. One of the most vocally astounding moments of the entire night came during her performance of the ‘Illicit Affairs’ outro, which she elevated to a dramatic rock sound. If fans were curious about how such folk-inspired songs would play in stadiums, the answer is: marvellously.
One of the best parts of any Swift show is the portion she inevitably plays solo. Swift found a sweet spot for such a moment in the setlist by nestling it right after the high-energy mega-hits of the ‘1989’ era. After picking up an acoustic guitar, Swift announced that her “plan” for this portion of the show throughout the tour was to play different “surprise songs” every night without repeats.
Her selections for opening night included the glittering, dreamy ‘Mirrorball’, and on piano, her 2006 country single ‘Tim McGraw’. The songs both represent significant firsts for Swift, ‘Mirrorball’ being the first song Swift wrote for ‘Folklore’, and ‘Tim McGraw’ being the very first song the artist ever released. These choices underscore the historical significance of returning to the road to tour an entire catalogue after an unprecedented global crisis. Some of ‘Mirrorball”s final lyrics encapsulate perfectly the challenge of connecting through and beyond a pandemic, as she sang “They called off the circus, burned the disco down / When they sent home the horses and the rodeo clowns / I’m still on that tightrope, I’m still trying everything to keep you laughing at me.”
More than anything, Swift’s kick-off show was a reminder of the relationships she’s developed with her loyal fan base over the past fifteen years. From joking about in-fandom memes (she referred to ‘Evermore’ as “an album I absolutely love, despite what some of you say on TikTok”), to praising the elaborate costumes attendees had put together, to making her show a more inclusive space with a comment about “guys, gals, and [her] non-binary pals”, Swift’s devotion to her fans was clear.
Early in the night, Swift addressed the crowd directly for the first time: “I don’t know how to process all of this and the way it’s making me feel,” she admitted. Perhaps it was just the bright lights, but she seemed to be welling up. The genuine emotion of a reunion this highly anticipated was more than reciprocated; many fans shed their own tears of excitement before the show even started.
It’s hard to blame them: the foundation of Swift’s career rests on the lengths she’s taken to achieve such closeness with her listeners. Years of mutual adoration culminated to give the State Farm Stadium show its euphoric pulse and made it clear that with the Eras Tour, Swift is sending a love letter to the people who have been there since the beginning.